I heard it time and time again during the 2016 election that Donald Trump would cost the GOP control of the Senate, and possibly the House, though neither prediction came true as the GOP retained majorities in both and won the White House. However, some analysts are looking to next year and wondering whether the Republican Party can sustain these majorities if Trump actually does become a drag on the ticket.
Some analysis from the Cook Political Report:
For example, in November 2006, President George W. Bush’s job approval ratings among his own party were 81 percent. Just 31 percent of independents gave him a positive job rating. His party lost 30 House seats – and control of the House. Four years earlier, in the 2002 midterms, Bush’s job approval ratings among Republicans were a robust 91 percent and among independents they were at 63 percent. His party picked up eight seats in the House that year. We are less than 75 days into the Trump Administration and the president is flirting very close to the danger zone territory. The most recent Gallup survey put his approval ratings with Republicans at 85 percent, but he’s sitting at just 33 percent with independents. If he drops a few points among GOPers, Trump’s ratings today would look exactly like those of President Bush right before his party was routed in 2006. [Emphasis added]
That seems a bit premature to once again write the epitaph of the GOP House majority. Sure, Trump is running into trouble right now, but there is a lot of time between now and Election Day in 2018.
The real difference-maker in 2018 might have to do with voter enthusiasm, which is expectedly stronger on the Democratic side:
Moreover, there’s also empirical evidence that Democrats are more energized in their dislike of Trump than Republicans are in their support of him. The most recent SurveyMonkey Survey found 81 percent of Democrats “strongly disapprove” of the job Trump’s doing, while 54 percent of Republicans “strongly approve” of his job performance. Among independents, strong disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by more than 2-1 (45 percent to 18 percent). An angry voter is an active voter, which in a low-turnout election is bad news for the GOP.
Democrats will be ready to vote in droves after losing in 2016. It’s similar to what happened in 2010 when Republicans took control of the House as a backlash against President Obama’s victory in 2008. Republicans will have history running against them, but then, history was running against Donald Trump and he ended up wining so it’s hard to discount any possibility in politics nowadays.
The question will be whether there are enough motivated Democrats in key House districts to make a difference. The entire states of California and New York can disapprove of Trump all day long, but Democrats will need a 50-state strategy to unseat a GOP majority that has been entrenched since 2010. Many of those first-time winners in 2010 have now fought three elections and have valuable campaign experience, something that is difficult for challengers to overcome.
The winning strategy for Democrats would involve a “wave election” against Trump in 2018 which could quite easily sweep them in to power. Short of a large movement, I suspect the House stays in GOP hands. Revisiting this question a year from now will give us a better picture.